Our guide to Thailand's top places, plus our lesser-known favorites
Though it’s perhaps most famous for its beaches — stereotypically idyllic, with gently rustling palms and brilliant blue skies — Thailand is about a whole lot more than just sun, sea and sand.
Bangkok is the archetypal Southeast Asian megalopolis: big, bold and brash, for sure — but somehow beautiful in its dizzying, non-stop chaos. Meanwhile, chilled-out Chiang Mai offers a seductive, East-meets-West blend of tradition and modernity; familiarity and exoticism. Endless coastline intersperses dramatic cliffs and caves with low-rise fishing villages and world-class luxury resorts, while Khao Sok National Park offers the chance to escape the modern world altogether as you sleep in a rafthouse surrounded by rainforest that’s changed little since prehistoric times.
Not everywhere in Thailand is sunshine and lollipops. Mass tourism arrived here a long time ago, bringing with it overdeveloped and characterless resorts, badly behaved backpackers, and a seedier element that lingers in some destinations. Thankfully, those places are in the minority. Whether you’re in a massive city or a rural town, on a tropical island or a remote jungle mountain, you’ll find some of the world’s friendliest people, tastiest food, and best accommodation in Thailand.
“I love Samui in the wee small hours. I especially love it on nights like this when the white moon stares down from the blackness like the pockmarked eye of a blind god. At such times [...] the dark hills appear to me as slumbering prehistoric leviathans, the clouds assume the air of restless ghosts, and the moon-dusted sea murmurs in some long forgotten tongue of the divine.” – John Dolan, Everyone Burns